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JCC opens new teen center at Shoppingtown Mall

The Jewish Community Center last week held a ribbon cutting ceremony for The SPOT (Syracuse Project for Our Teens), a new place where teenagers are invited to gather at Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt. More than 50 people, including local officials and community residents, gathered for the occasion.

"The opportunity to secure space at Shoppingtown Mall presented itself and it was natural to consider this space for a teen center," said Lori Innella-Venne, director of JCC's Teen Programming and The SPOT. "The location is ideal with regards to its proximity to the JCC campus, and our target market is already there at the mall looking for things to do."

The center is furnished with a lounge area complete with couches, TVs, video games, billiards and foosball. Other amenities include a performance stage, snack bar, computers and private study rooms.

"It's a place for kids to express themselves," said JCC Executive Director Marci Erlebacher. "We saw the need in the community for teens to have a safe place to go and we felt it was important to meet that need."

The SPOT's mission is to enrich the lives of teens through after school programs, events and excursions that promote recreation, education, volunteerism and entertainment. For instance, the center will provide college preparation courses, as well as offer a class on the art of filmmaking through SYRFILM. It will also host social events like open mic nights, JCC SyraCruisin' travel trips and video game tournaments.

"As we grow and create new partnerships in the community, we will be able to offer diversified programming to the teens," Innella-Venne said.

The center's mission also aims to connect teens to one another and the communities in which they live. The safe, welcoming environment is hoped to foster responsibility, ownership and a sense of self-importance as an invested member.

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